World number four Ding Junhui became the first snooker player this century to win three successive ranking titles after he defeated Hong Kong’s Marco Fu in a closely-contested final of the International Championship in Chengdu.
The Sheffield-based potter defeated Fu 10-9 yesterday in a tense finale as the clock ticked past midnight in China to follow up his wins at the Shanghai Masters and Indian Open.
Victory for Ding, who practices at the Star Snooker Academy, means he has pocketed prize money of £257,000 over a six-week spell and he joins Peter Ebdon and John Parrott with nine ranking titles to his name.
In a tense, evenly-matched final which ebbed and flowed, Ding wrapped up victory with a break of 91 in the last frame to finish with a flourish.
Ding, who beat Graeme Dott in the semi-finals on Saturday, had led Fu 5-4 at the end of the first session before he returned to claim the 10th frame with a break of 108 to move into a two-frame lead in the best-of-19 final.
The next frame turned into a war of attrition, with both players demonstrating the full range of their safety play and waiting to see who would be the first one to blink.
Fu ended the stand-off with a long-range red in a scrappy frame that lasted 50 minutes and went on to edge out Ding to trail 6-5.
The 35-year-old then produced a more fluid display to pull level with Ding, firing a composed break of 105.
Fu had been on course for a maximum, but he missed the black with only one red left on the table as he tried to free it from a tight position next to the pink.
He then followed it up with a break of 71 in the 13th frame to take a 7-6 lead over Chinese cueman Ding into the mid-session interval.
Ding, who defeated Fu 10-4 in the final of the 2011 Masters, tied the match after some much-needed table time of his own as he went on to become the first player since Scotland’s Stephen Hendry in 1993 to win three consecutive ranking events.
“Marco was in really in great form and he could have won the title, it’s anybody’s when it goes down to a decider,” added Ding.